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Tsubaki Horizon

"All systems go! Stay safe out there, everyone!"

0 · 579 views · located in Aftermath Era

a character in “Black Fang”, as played by ZoddtheItinerant

Description

Image

Name: Tsubaki Horizon

Role: Operator

Gender: Female

Physical Appearance: A young woman with long, vibrant orange hair and glass green artificial eyes. Average in height and slim in build, dressed in her finest with a vermilion Black Fang formal uniform.

Personality Traits: Has a disposition as sunny as her hair. Can get overly emotional. A bit of a gossip, thanks to a naturally curious mind. Has a phobia of guns, and thus carry none in her person.

Personal History: One of Black Fang's combat operators, assigned to assist Haven's silhouette defense force. Lost her eyes to stray gunfire while escaping a MASS attack as a child, and has developed a phobia of firearms as a result.

Equipment:
- Vermilion Black Fang uniform
- Operator headset

So begins...

Tsubaki Horizon's Story

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: BFSV-16 Polaris Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Genna Strawberry Character Portrait: BFSH-035 Diesever Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: BFSW-002 Stinger Character Portrait: Dix Neuf Character Portrait: BFSP-060 Paladin Character Portrait: VFM-06A Corvidae Character Portrait: BFSH-013 Sarissa
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  1. Edited to include reference to Lufia's Silhouette.

    by ZoddtheItinerant
  2. Edit retracted.

    by ZoddtheItinerant

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PROLOGUE: HAVEN

Year xx57, Aftermath Era.

The sun shined high above the vast, nigh endless stretch of the Gobi desert. The millennia-old, deep tan sand seemed fluid and soft, like an unmoving, all-encompassing ocean. Scraps of metal littered the dune surfaces, some small as a babe, others large as a battleship. But all were wrinkled, grey, and rusted.

Hundreds of baby blue tents stood in the middle of the desert, a temporary settlement, housing those who had come long and far to find a semblance of hope in a hopeless world. Men, women, and child alike waited anxiously under the scorching heat. Thousands formed lines, queuing in front of a red tent, where the Black Fang organization promised to provide food and supplies.

After hours of shuffling and feeling every corner of his body nearly combusting, a tall youth in a featureless black shirt and dusty tan pants stepped forward, his weary black eyes glancing to the large woman in front of him, clad in a pink apron and face mask and standing besides a large iron tin filled with gallons of pale yellow soup. To a normal man, the sight and scent would be nothing special. To the starving refugees, it was like a blessing from God.

The youth held up a small white bowl, which the woman quickly filled. He grimaced at the contents of the bowl for a few seconds. After so many dull hours, the soup felt like a pittance. Still, the young man nodded his thanks, then turned to leave.

"Nice hairdo," the woman remarked in a deadpan tone.

"Thanks," the youth replied just as flatly. He wondered if she was sincere. Probably not. The colossal mass of steel-grey spikes he called his hair could hardly be called 'fashionable'. But he liked it that way.

Out of the red tent, and back into the desert. The young man slowly looked up and squinted.

Before him, stood a gigantic landship. A mobile fortress of iron and steel, ten times the size of the temporary settlement, its rust red body shielding everyone from much of the unforgiving sun. Massive treads supported the vehicle, its rubbers new and almost free of dust and sand. Fifty cannons, each the size of five adult men, were mounted on both port and starboard sides of the mobile fortress.

Even after a week since he first arrived at this settlement, the spiky-haired youth could not stop marveling at the fortress.

An awe inspiring beacon of hope.

A refuge for the survivors of the unrelenting MASS onslaught.

"Haven".
===============================================================================




Hissing steam.

Rhythmic beating of metal.

All too familiar to those who took part in the construction of Mobile Fortress Haven. Nearly a year had passed since Black Fang's Arch Commander sent out his order. The workers, clad in their dirty blue overalls and oversized yellow helmets tolled through day and night to make sure the Mobile Fortress would be a stalwart place of refuge for the surviving humans of Eurasia.

"I need an english key, quick!"

"You got it!"

Orders shouted, tools exchanged. The workers moved swiftly as they delivered the finishing touches, sprinting upside down across the ceiling through magnetic boots, rolling through the interior with the aid of wheeled ladders...

Surveying the construction were two figures in Black Fang uniforms. The first, a tall, dark haired middle aged man with a gold-trimmed olive coat hanging loosely from his shoulder like a cloak. The second, a shorter young woman with bright orange hair and glassy green eyes, a neat and proper vermilion uniform on her person.

The two walked side by side, with the man, with one hand in his pocket, and another carrying a stainless steel flask, a casual smile gracing his face. The woman, in contrast, held a clipboard and pen in each hand, using the latter to tick away at several checkboxes.

"Commander Neuf, Section A and B are complete. The rooftops at Section C still need reinforcing, but it should be done by tonight," the young woman reported, maintaining a clear and formal tone.

The man, Base Commander Dix Neuf, gave a lax smile in response. "Good job, Tsubaki, send an alert to the Black Fang pilots. I want them to meet up with me at my office-"

"-Already done, sir," the young woman, Operator Tsubaki Horizon, quickly replied, the edge of her lips curving slightly into a proud smile.

Dix Neuf raised one brow in surprise, then smirked. "Working hard as always, eh, Tsubaki?"

Tsubaki raised a fist to her chin, and chuckled slightly. "Someone has to, Commander."

===============================================================================



Haven's hangar. A gunmetal grey chamber, accented by yellow lights to break up the monotony. The whirring and clicking of machinery echoed throughout this interior, located upon Haven's bow. The hangar was the third largest chamber in the mobile fortress, and the first to be completed.

Seven intricate catapult mechanisms were built on the hangar's ground, each connected to six giant clamps carved on the walls. Upon several of the clamps, surrounded by dozens of vertical, diagonal, and horizontal ladders alike, were five of Haven's Silhouettes. Or rather, four silhouettes, one hover tank, and one mundane fighter jet, the latter two of which were secured on the catapult deck itself, and not the clamp.

Haven's mechanics stood on the many ladders surrounding the Silhouettes, performing regular maintenances and check ups.

One of said mechanics was a short and petite girl, with large brown eyes and pink hair fashioned into two giant drill-like ringlets. The girl pouted, with furrowed brows, as she inspected each Silhouette one by one. Two humanoids, two walkers. She looked between the machines and a clipboard in her hand, matching each one with their model numbers.

"Huuuuuuuuu...," the girl's eyes narrowed as she whined to herself.

"Most of these models are downright ancient!," she mumbled, eyeing the fighter jet 'Corvidae', and the hover tank 'DK-13' in particular. "Are we a Silhouette defense force, or a walking war museum?"

Even their newest model, the absolutely gigantic 'Paladin', seemed rather simple and primitive. Though she had to admit, whoever had the bright idea to include a chainsaw sword among its armaments was an absolute genius.

"These babies better have top tier pilots," she thought aloud and nodded.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: BFSV-16 Polaris Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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The Gobi desert, a stretch of sand and mountains. Where once many interesting creatures lived. A marvelous sight when compared to what it has become of it now, where it's void of natural life, intermixed with mechanical debris from battles in the past. Persistence had been a notable thing with the creatures of Earth, especially humans in this circumstance. As there was a small encampment within the desert that they called home. From her perch, high upon one of the many mountain-like dunes, Raiza could see several blue tents in the distance, slightly obscured by the ever-shifting sands, picked up by the winds, and moved elsewhere for a brief time. Watching it almost resembled humanity for the pilot, as she moved quickly around the encampment, ready to intercept any threat and ensure the safety of the people under the hulking mass of steel known as Haven. It was one of few last hopes of humanity, ensuring the survival of the species, that was obviously too stubborn to die.

However, it felt dreadfully slow as the Variant Silhouette known as Polaris, as Raiza yawned. Waking to an early shift for a patrol, while she was no top tier pilot by any means, she had experience in patrolling. With an added bonus of how attentive both Raiza's eyes and mind was, it seemed as if she left no grain of sand hidden, she was not to let a single monster get even remotely close to that encampment, not without a fight at least. While the canopy was covered, the area was illuminated by the outside world through the on board field of vision map that rested on the inside of the canopy's shield plating, it allowed for vision as Raiza moved slowly, moving the head back and forth, sweeping for anything out of the ordinary, minus her allies of course.

And this march continued, as minutes passed to make hours. It seemed unbearably hot outside, as far as Raiza could see, which seemed nice that the cooling unit was active in Polaris, making it comfortable for it's pilot. Idle thoughts were all the poor pilot had, as she had run out of songs to hum to death and then some after about the first thirty revolutions, the woman sighed, "Note to self, I'm not doing this again... Oh right, nobody else will..." she had a light habit of talking to herself when isolated, as it was the only thing seemingly allowing for the silence to be broken every so often, as it was isolating to hear nothing but the steps of Polaris and the hum of all of the technology.

Yet a ping came up on the visor of her helmet, a notification from command, summoning all pilots to the commander's office, it felt like an eternity for something to come up, she laughed lightly as the pinging had taken her completely off guard and while she was on edge, as she opened her radio communications to Haven's bridge, as her communicator crackled before she spoke,

"Command, this is Black Rose, I am currently on patrol, and received notification that Commander Neuf wishes to see me in his office. Requesting a Return to Base."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Having finished her report for Base Commander Dix Neuf, Tsubaki returned to Haven's Operator room. A small, narrow, poorly lit interior filled with dozens of over sized screens jutting out of the wall, neck to neck with one another. The monitors bathed the room in faint blue light, displaying Unanswered D-mails, unsorted field reports, Captain Dix Neuf's misplaced doujin collection... and so on. Just then, Tsubaki's sharp ears picked up beep from one of the monitors, alerting her of Raiza's message.

The red haired Operator sat herself upon her rolling chair, and fixed her headset and its mouthpiece. With a smile, she delivered her reply.

"Black Rose, this is Command. Request granted!" Tsubaki then spun, and rolled towards another monitor. Her graceful fingers rapidly tapped away at the keyboard. "I'll alert the Hangar to disengage their gate lock. Come home safe!"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Genna Strawberry Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Once done with aiding Raiza, Tsubaki spun in her chair and rolled to yet another monitor. So much work, so little time. As her glass eyes scanned the screen ahead of her, her ears picked up the loud roar of a jet engine, which zoomed right past her.

"Ah...!"

The Operator yelped, then swiveled in her chair, turning her attention at another monitor, providing her the perspective of Haven's starboard camera, and the view of the Polaris zooming mere inches from the mobile fortress' observatory deck. So close. She could still feel her ears ringing. Had Raiza been even slightly less of a skilled pilot than she was...

One of the Polaris' screen beeped and brought forth a view of a very cross-looking Tsubaki, lips curled into a frown, brows tensed, left eye twitching.

"T-that was careless, Black Rose! You could have costed us over 5,000 Fang Dollars in damages! A-and not to mention the delays!"

Of course, the part Tsubaki won't admit, was just how cool she found those rolls were.

================================================================================

The mechanic team quickly gathered to check upon the Polaris as Raiza exited her cockpit, with the strawberry-haired Genna among them. Locks on the catapult deck's surface clasped around each of the variable jet's landing gear. Decontamination workers in bright, bulky yellow hazmat suits ran into the scene and sprayed the surface of the vehicle with anti-MASS residue vapors. Standard procedure, just in case.

Many of the mechanics and workers in the hangar side-eyed the carefree Raiza, whispering among themselves.

"Geeze. One of these days, that woman's stunts are going to get her killed..."

"Ssh! Don't say it so loud. She can hear you!"

Genna, meanwhile, walked besides Raiza with a bright smile of her own, an assortment of wrenches, pliers, and portable welders hanging from her belt. Her brown eyes seemed to grow three times as large when she was particularly happy or excited, which in turn made her seem younger than most everyone else.

The young mechanic giggled in response to the motherly pilot's warm compliment, with a closed-eyed grin and both fists pumped in excitement. "Teeheehee! That's right, praise me, praise me more~!"

Genna accompanied Raiza for a few seconds towards the elevator, taking the chance to ask her standard questions about the jet's performance. "All the levers, triggers, and switches still in good condition? Good, good!"

The young girl waved Raiza goodbye as the latter entered the elevator, and turned her attention back to the Polaris, admiring its sleek and streamlined form. The red skull paint right behind the cockpit, a personal touch of 'Black Rose', was a particularly striking element.

"Now, if only I could persuade Razey to include my prototype gunblade among its arsenal...," Genna mumbled to herself while skipping to join the rest of her team.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Commander Neuf remained smiling, without a tense nerve in his face, at the sight of Anna's cold, hard glare. He grabbed the chair he previously tucked away by the wall, dragged it in front of the bathtub, and proceeded to slouch atop it, his long, olive coat cape draped over like a heavy curtain.

"If it bugs you so much," the Commander spoke, staying utterly calm. "I could send you off back to the Russian branch with a formal letter. You can stop whining about the desert, and we'd all save money on vodka and bath water."

Eventually, the rest of the team filed in, from the tallest to shortest. Rhys Hudson, Renzam Aubrey, Camille Arca, and Avery Hall.

The Commander looked at each briefly, then sat himself up properly. "And we're all here. Ahem."

"As Base Commander of this fine and fortuitous fortress, I, Dix Neuf, formally welcome all seven of you as members of Haven's Silhouette Defense Force." His words were official, fitting of an authoritative figure, but his tone was calm. Lax. Almost flippant, in a way.

Renzam glanced left and right, scanning the rest of his teammates. The white haired woman, in particular, caught his attention. Minerva Petra. She was there when his brother was killed in action. She was there when a lot of people were killed in action. Time, and time again. Renzam's hands balled into fists, but he quickly looked away once he realized he was staring, and focused back on Dix Neuf's speech.

With one eye closed, the Commander continued his speech, "Some of you have tasted true battles in the past. Others have engaged in mere simulations. It matters not."

"We're all part of a team now, and with our strengths, we will cover each other's weaknesses."

Dix Neuf sighed and stirred in his seat.

"After so many months, the construction of Haven will reach its end at around 1900 hours tonight. We will then open our gates, and proceed with the boarding of over 23,000 men, women, and children alike."

Renzam's entire body froze. His mouth quickly blurted out what was in his mind, "All seven of us are responsible for THAT many people?"

The Commander kept his everpresent smile. "Oh, you won't be alone. The ground vehicle and air support divisions will help you. Your Silhouettes' firepower will be our trump cards, but our less advanced jeeps, tanks, and fighter jets in the secondary hangar will perform secondary and tertiary tasks."

Dix Neuf paused, letting the information sink in, before continuing his speech, "We'll try and make sure the boarding process is as quick, painless, and organized as we could. This is a crucial operation, so I will need ALL of you to sortie in your Silhouettes, and watch our bow, stern, port, and starboard alike."

The Commander leaned back in his chair and snapped his fingers.

"Now. Tsubaki? You here?"

A monitor on Dix Neuf office table flickered to life, displaying the red haired Operator's calmly smiling face.

"Yes, Commander, I'm-"

A pause. The Operator glanced down from her position to see Dix Neuf's rose-scented bathtub. She quickly directed her eyes back to the Silhouette Defense team, and cleared her throat.

"I-I'm here."

They could see the girl wordlessly sigh at the Commander's impractical use of his water rations. Dix Neuf, of course, remained nonchalant. He looked up to the group, and asked, "Before we proceed with our review of MASS knowledge, I have a question."

The Commander paused again, taking his time to make eye contact with each of them, his expression far more serious than before.

"This team is going to need a field leader. Any volunteers?"

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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As Rhys entered the commanders office, the most eye catching sight of the room was the commander himself. Slouching over a chair while still inside a bathtub. Being a commander sure had its perks, a nice bathtub. Where can he sign up to be a commander? He chuckled at his thoughts but stood at attention, a little bit casually.

His eyes soon scanned the room looking at everyone that was currently in the room and boy was he surprised. Out of the seven of them here, a stunning five ladies were here, they were all pretty good looking as well. He expected perhaps a bunch of men as well but if this was the defence force, the people who would engage the nastiest threats. Then he would be glad to work along every one of them. He could only imagine if he was not her, Renzam would be the only guy here. Probaly the start of a book he once read...something about comedy and romance. The name evaded him.

Shaking away his thoughts, he listened to the commanders speech or introduction...however out of the entire speech when he mentions 23,000 people he whistled. It was up to them and everyone who had volunteered to be in the armed forces to defend every last person here. This was some big responsibility, he signed up for this occasion and make a bit of a difference. At least he would be fighting with some pretty ladies.

However before the captain could talk about the MASS he had a question for them all...who wanted to volunteer for fire team leader. Well then, he could cross himself right off that list. He was pretty casual and a thinker sure, but strategy and tactics was not his deal, or maybe it was? Maybe Renzam? If he would be like his brother one day then he would Probaly make a good leader. Or perhaps Minerva, she was a veteran and Probaly had the most battlefield knowledge.

He decided to see who actually would volunteer, fire team leader was an important role after all. If he volunteered he would have to be a team leader, he could think under some heavy pressure but in the field...An order could be fatal...yeah, not going to have that on his conscious.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Minerva didn't even bat an eyelid towards Anna's outburst. She internally disputed the group's fortune that this woman was awake, but knew better than to voice such opinions aloud. Commander Neuf merely smiled as he towelled off and thankfully put his jacket on. The rest of the pilots filed in shortly after as he prepared to deliver his speech.

While listening intently to the briefing, Minerva caught someone looking at her out of the corner of her eye. She looked away when she recognised that face. Adzam's brother. Of course. She knew that she would be expected to work with him, being assigned to the same squad, but... her stomach still turned at the memory of hearing the news. That the Diesever would be refitted with a close combat loadout as per the specifications of its new pilot. To her, it was a disservice to the memory of its former occupant.

The quiet girl looked up when she heard Dix Neuf ask for volunteers to lead the squad. Minerva looked to the others assembled in the room. Many of them looked like fresh faces. Then again, such a proportion of rookies was hardly unusual among Silhouette squads. Whoever was elected to lead them, the protectors of so many human lives, would need to be competent enough to handle the task.

Minerva stepped forward, saluting smartly. "Sir. Based on my previous combat experience, I would like to nominate myself as a potential candidate for this position."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Anna had stayed quiet listening. She smirked at the commander's suggestion of her going back home sure he would love it until he saw the whole Death Knight tank force go with her. But as she listened on it sunk in the gravity of it all how many lives where on the line...

The call for a field commander took her by surprise she had thought it be Dix giving the orders. She had led tanks before but this was out of her area of expertise. So she stayed quiet...

But then Minerva stepped forward... Sure she had talent and even with her earlier comments Anna would normally follow such a vet but she had heard the tales of Minerva getting her whole squad killed.

" Know you have experience Minerva but I also know how many times those under you command die...I personally wish to survive this mission and am sure everyone else in this room would as well not to mention the 23,000 Innocents we are called to protect." Anna said

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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As the other five pilots entered, Raiza politely waved to her new comrades, each one seemed interesting to her, and she wanted to know them better. Though the conference began soon after, as Dix Neuf began speaking, welcoming the new team into Haven, while she was familiar with most of Haven, being that she'd been here a while she understood the implications and especially how much pressure was on her. Especially when the civilian count was read, over twenty-three thousand civilians, along with the crew of mechanics, information specialists, Support units, pilots, and every ounce of this soon to be living base. The pressure of that all felt immense, though not new whatsoever, Raiza's felt pressure before, and knew her strengths.

Though it was time for the briefing of the boarding process, which was to be quick and painless, with everyone covering a flank like they mean it. Though without even so much as a notion, Raiza smiled as Tsubaki came up on the screen, knowing that she was likely still aggravated by Rai's personal air show, as the mechanics were definitely just as crossed, as Raiza was being a bit of a showoff with her skills. It was only normal, and was only for showmanship that the Silhouette pilots were good at their job, giving a secure feeling to everyone, and even hope that the long war could be won. Which as far as things stand, was a pipe dream, but, a girl can dream can't she? Though her eyes glanced carefully at each pilot, as a Field Leader was asked for, and volunteers would be welcomed,

Renzam Aubrey, from a mere look at him he seemed like one of those rough-and-tumble types. Though the number shocked him, Raiza felt that he could be a good pilot from his looks, though not great leadership material.... Next was Minerva Petra, a cold, and possibly calculative person. She'd experience in combat, though led a team to their demise before, as was mentioned by others, Rai liked that she's willing to try again at the least.... After was Rhys Hudson, a calm and casual, even in danger, while he wsa the type that was simple and clean both in mech and tactics, Rai liked how he wouldn't get himself in knots... After was Anna Minrova, a cold, cunning and temperamental pilot, Raiza wasn't exactly someone she would open up to, but there's something underneath everyone, and she wanted to know... Then Camille Arca, a bright and happy person, while she had a lot to learn, there was something about her that made Rai think very fondly and positive to the girl, maybe the fact she knows her weaknesses, and is willing to learn to triumph over them.... And finally was Avery Hall, a spunky and care-free girl, she had quite the experience with the MASS, and volunteered to be the leader, even going so far as explaining her story with everyone, while most would ridicule the poor girl, Raiza smiled, and gave her a gentle rub on her back, a way to comfort someone, something a mother would do, as she looked at Dix, the Tsubaki, and striking out with her words,

"I shall volunteer as well. I feel a synergy with this team, and am willing to put my skills to aid them, and push this squad farther than they realize the can go. However, I will pay my respects to Minerva, and Avery, as I am not questioning your skills or reasons, we all have our reasons to be here. And I will kindly accept any result of this matter. But, I want to ensure everyone's survival, we could use all the help we can get."

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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The veteran pilot watched Avery, of all people, speak her piece in the application for squad leader. Though initially raising a quizzical eyebrow at this development, Minerva could understand where the rookie was coming from. The powerful Silhouettes, even dated models, commanded an awesome presence on the battlefield. And despite the obvious risks involved, such acts of bravery and heroism provided a source of inspiration and boosted morale among troops and civilians alike. The sacrifice of a single life in the right scenario could very well save hundreds or even thousands of lives.

Shortly after, Anna spoke up. Though it wasn't to throw her hat into the ring alongside the other two...

Minerva turned her head towards the tank pilot, her one eye casting an icy blue glare. The tactless Russian seemed to have struck a nerve. "I'll have you know that I although I am a veteran, I have not once assumed the position of field leader. I have merely served as a subordinate," she corrected Anna. "Or perhaps you have been too busy pickling yourself in alcohol to notice?"

She almost failed to notice Raiza step forward with her own proposition for command. The pilot of the Polaris spoke with more wisdom than Avery, and more warmth than Minerva herself. It was, of course, ultimately up to Dix Neuf as to who would be placed in command.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Renzam looked between the nominees for field leadership. The professional and unemotional Minerva, seemingly the type to stay cool under heavy pressure. And on the other side of the spectrum, Avery, whose impassioned speech caused Renzam to raise both brows in surprise. "Okay. I admit, that was pretty cool," he thought aloud next to her.

But then he continued to run his mouth, "...Cooler than puking your guts out, at least."

Then, Anna and Minerva exchanged sharp, ice cold words. Renzam glanced at the two and furrowed his brows. Seemed like these two would have quite the colorful interaction.

Commander Dix Neuf, with his eyes closed and head down, held up a hand to stop them from breaking out into an all-out cat fight. Not that he wouldn't enjoy it. "Now, now, girls. Play nice," he calmly requested, his smile never leaving his face.

Renzam then took notice to Raiza as she joined in and promoted herself. Her words were passionate, yet her voice was calm and certain. A healthy mix between Minerva's experience and Avery's compassion.

The Commander listened to each of their suggestions, offering no immediate response, verbal or physical. He finally looked up and opened one eye as Camille offered her perspective. She seemed young and relatively inexperienced, yet thoughtful.

"You're right of course, Camilla," Dix Neuf suddenly spoke out.

He then looked to the others, from Minerva, to Anna, then Raiza and Avery. "I was merely checking how many of you actually want the position. I am pleasantly surprised at what I hear, for the most part."

The Commander turned his eyes to Renzam and Rhys. His smile curled into a mischievous, cat-like one. With a chuckle, he jokingly reprimanded them, "Shame on you two, men are supposed to take charge. Make the ladies swoon with your confidence, you know?"

Renzam remained straight faced as he replied, "I'm a fighter. I follow orders, I don't hand them out."

"Heh. Can't blame you, Renz... nothing is more attractive than a woman that is not only beautiful, but ALSO charismatic... Wouldn't you agree?" The Commander inquired, eyeing both Renzam and Rhys.

Renzam slowly blinked. "...I never gave much thought to women, Sir."

Dix Neuf turned his attention back at the group in general. "In any case, I have taken all of your words into consideration. But before I decide, I would need what you've got."

The Commander spun in his chair, and turned towards the monitor with Tsubaki's face on it. "And before that...."

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Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Tsubaki smiled and nodded, keeping her opinions of the field leader candidates to herself. "Good afternoon, everyone. All of you have read my messages, but this might be the first time you've seen me in person."

Renzam glanced to his teammates, then whispered, "Does a live video feed count as 'in person'?"

"Allow me to properly introduce myself. I am your operator, Tsubaki Horizon," she continued, her voice steady and serious, but accompanied by a certain warmth. With a bow of the head, she proceeded, "I look forward to working with you."

The screen switched away from a view of Tsubaki, to a small map of the desert around them, with Haven in the center, and two bright red dots, located northwest and southeast at the corners of the map. The dots pulsed with a slow-moving, radial wave from within.

"Now, allow me to refresh your memories. These dots represent the "Anomalous Rifts", distortions in the air from which the MASS invades into our world. These rifts become stronger as days passed, and after several nights, they would burst and bring forth our enemies, literally out of thin air."

The screen then shifted once more, this time into a light gray page which displayed the front, side, and back views of an alien creature. Black from head to toe, with a sleek body and long, spindly limbs and a hunched posture. Narrow and thin Rectangular patterns, not unlike a circuit board, were carved into their flesh. The creature lacked any kind of discernible eyes or ears. Instead, its head was shaped like a faceless cuttlefish, with five long, flexible tentacles tapering at the end.

"Our researchers link the pattern of these particular rifts to those of the MASS Nightcrawlers, the most common type of MASS. 13 meters tall when hunched, with sharp and flexible tentacles for limbs. Fast, fragile, and relatively easy to take down, they often attack in groups of five."

With a click, Tsubaki turned to another page. This one displayed more sketches, showing the true face, or 'core' of a MASS Nightcrawler. Their jet black tentacles pulled back and opened like a blooming flower, showing off a bright orange orb covered in patterns of technical circuitry and organic tendons.

Renzam winced at the sight, his eyes lost in the sea of techno-organic surface. "That's gross."

"You could take a MASS down by sheer brute force, but the most efficient way to take down a MASS, and the only way to truly destroy it, is to claim its core," Tsubaki continued to explain. "Destroying a MASS' exposed core ensures that the rest of its body will wither, and for the core itself to ignite and explode."

"The explosion from a single Nightcrawler would do little more than scratch your Silhouettes, but the larger MASS variants will be much less forgiving."

Tsubaki closed her presentation, replacing her face on the screen. "Oh, One last thing. Extracting a MASS core intact instead of destroying it will earn you large bonuses on your paycheck, and is considered by many Silhouette pilots to be a mark of true skill. The energy from inside the core are also invaluable in providing extra fuel for Haven."

The Operator's smile faded, and her glass eyes focused. "But, please, PLEASE, whatever you do, focus on destroying the MASS and coming back safe! No bonus in the world is worth your life..." Tsubaki's voice softened near the end, and she glanced aside, silently remembering many careless pilots who forsook safe survival for a chance at glorious victory.

Dix Neuf slowly spun in his chair and turned his eyes back at the team. "So, any questions? If not, you have five hours of free time. Use it as you see fit. Training, mingling, eating..."

The Commander winked, then gave a thumbs up. "Even fraternizing is fine too!... Juuuuust... don't let the High Command know."

"Commander!" Tsubaki protested with an exasperated frown.

Renzam nodded to himself. It was always good to have a refresher, especially since it had been over two weeks since he last saw actual combat. His eyes darted between the rest of his teammates, curious as to what they would do with the time they have.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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"Apologies commander, I will be sure to give a nice gift to all the lovely ladies for my poor manners at taking charge. A little sorry for them all. I will be sure to jump at the next opportunity...also I share the same sentiments about beauty and charisma." Rhys smiled and shrugged casually. Yeah, now that he thought about it...it was ungentamanly of the guys to sit on the sidelines instead of rise to the occasion.

Before the commander could go on yet another tangent, the operator Tsubaki interrupted...or at the very least stopped the commander before he could rant yet again. She began to talk about their enemy, the MASS. How they appeared, how to spot them, their weak points and the common MASS unit they would encounter.

Soon his eyes soon began to have a sort of glint of them, a nice pay check to get a core intact. Not only was it valuable energy but it would be nice to have the extra cash. Of course like hell he would risk his life, maybe if there was one enemy left, taking the cores could be rather simple especially since if they attack in fives, that would mean easy energy and money right? Nah...he should not underestimate the enemy, he was a gambler, he knew about risk and reward well. If things look fine, it usually is or could be a trap. "Thanks for the information, and extra thanks for the kind words. Of course no bonus is worth our life, how else would we spend it if we died? All jokes aside I will be certainly taking care so don't worry about me...a smile suits you much better." He grinned as he pointed right at her.

"As for you commander...I will be sure to mingle around and train...and buy some gifts...but you should be careful commander. If word got out you use water rations for baths like that along with standing in the buff in front of your subordinates...high command will also not like that I am sure." Rhys grinned before turning around and waving. "Gonna see if they have some sort of shopping stall set up. Get you girls some gifts. Don't expect anything too fancy, but I will try and get something you all might like." And with that he laughed heartily as he walked away.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Avery was feeling quite confident after her verbal presentation to the group, if a little nervous, but the intensity of both feelings seemed to switch places in an instant at Raiza's gentle touch. It was kind of embarrassing to have the older girl rub her back, but it wasn't unwelcome. With flushed red cheeks and a smaller posture, she listened to her request the role of team leader as well. Raiza was professional in her words like Minerva, but without the same of sense of distance. It was then that Avery started to wonder if she'd been too passionate, nervously glancing between the faces around her.

Still. . . I don't think I'd mind if someone like her was our leader, she thought with some consideration, shaking off her anxiety and nodding to herself in approval. Heck, she also happens to be the only pilot with a Variable, if I'm remembering this correctly. The rest of us are stuck with walkers, humanoids. . . Avery's gaze briefly strayed toward Camilla, but didn't linger.
. . . fighter jets.

Her train of thought derailed when Minerva shot back at Anna - she was hoping that this would not be a lasting development in their team composition, though there was little to be done about the fact that it was beginning to look like the first development. Renzam wasn't helping any with his little jab at her, although he did say that girls weren't really on his mind.

"Man, that hurts almost as much as my stomach," Avery said with a joking glare.

She raised a brow at one of the commander's comments and smiled to herself, clapping her hands together. "Oh, so you know a thing or two about 'the ladies,' do you, commander?" Confidence isn't a concern to her, but a kind heart and a sense of humor are a definite prerequisite. Well, maybe she did have kind of a preference for taller guys too, but it wasn't a deciding factor.

"Uh. . . if you need me, I'm gonna grab something to eat that isn't soup and then take a quick shower," Avery said sheepishly, recalling the unfortunate incident earlier today. "I'm not feeling so good so I'll probably lay down in bed for a while, though I wouldn't mind if any of you came over to hang out. Well, see ya!"

With that, she followed Rhys and Anna out the door, though they were already quite far ahead of her by the time she parted ways with the rest of the group.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Raiza looked back, hearing Camilla speak, making actual sense of the situation, with an aspect that Raiza hadn't thought of until now, the team wasn't too familiar with eachother. It was definitely a noteworthy revelation, before Neuf spoke again, the team was to be decided after the sortie that evening, fair enough. Though then came the real fun, Tsubaki explaining the MASS, how they appear, which is through a type of temporal rift that quite literally spawns the blasted things out of thin air, it was old news to Raiza, as she'd been through this before, through both researching about the things, and through briefings like this. Moving on was the fun with the anatomy of Nightcrawlers, the most basic MASS "organism" if you could call it that. Thin and spindly, it begged the question as to why this creature is implemented in the army of sorts, outside of being probably inexpensive and good at taking care of humans outside of Silhouettes, though they were scary big, being almost as tall as Polaris in Battleoid form, they were not something exactly easily climbed. But outside of that, there was little to really fret on with them as Raiza could tell, as a Nightcrawler alone wasn't hard, however they came in packs, that's what made them dangerous. Then there was the take down ways, Raiza understood the core was it's weakest part, but wanted to try other methods, and even so much as research them a little more... The MASS intrigued her, and especially made her think what could be done should Black Fang get their hands on researching them....

Though the thought was snapped as the briefing ended, with Tsubaki finishing her report, and then Neuf mentioning the free time, five hours. While Anna merely walked off without so much as a word, Rhys mentioning mingling around and training, along with getting gifts for the female members of the team, with a gentle smile, she responded with a "Oh, you don't have to... I don't mind if you don't get anything for me." Next to walk out was Avery, whom as Rai has heard, was vomiting this morning, 'I'll be sure to make some tea for her, I believe Green Tea should help with that....' soon enough, Raiza spun on her heels, and lightly waved,

"If you don't mind me, I plan to get something to eat, maybe have some tea, and whatnot." as she began to walk away, mumbling bit and pieces of her plan to herself, and somehow ended in the Hangar once more, looking at Polaris, as engineers crawled around it. It was a nice craft she had, and Raiza made sure she tended to it the best she could, often with regular cleanings and regular checks herself. While Engineers knew what they were doing, Raiza preferred to check herself. Though that was not what she was there for, as she looked for bright pink, Genna. It didn't take long to find her, and soon words were exchanged,

"If you have the chance, Genna, could you equip Polaris' Heavy Weapons module? And if you could also switch the Phoenix missiles for the Wasp missiles that'd be nice too. But if you can't do it that's fine, I know you're busy."

It wasn't like Raiza needed it, it was more-so that she needed more firepower to protect the people entering Haven. Raiza would not allow a single casualty without both her and Polaris to go down. Though after being confirmed to her request, Raiza stopped by her next stop, without even realizing she was still in her pilot uniform, (Though it'd make no sense to change, she'd be back in it a few hours later) which was the observation deck, the pilot often visited the area as it gave her both a good view of the surroundings, and also giving her a chance to talk to Tsubaki, whom was likely still cross with her for the mini-air show. 'I really could have joined a flying circus....' she thought laughing at the prospect of that, though she did make a note to that, when there was a safe chance, to have a show for the people of Haven, though she pushed the thought aside as she entered the Observation deck, as the door opened, Rai laughed a little,

"Still dimly lit as ever I see, do you just enjoy the room to be lit by only monitors, Tsubaki?" she asked, shaking her head with a laugh, "I remember being told watching a monitor in the dark is bad for your vision." It was apparent to Raiza that she felt like everyone's mother, but that was brushed aside, as the pilot took up a second chair, rolling towards a monitor, as it flickered up, giving a view from the top of the fortress, while only one tent was noticeable, the red one, that is, Raiza moved the camera around, slowly picking up on the terrain they were in, to place Polaris in the right position...

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Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Genna Strawberry Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: BFSH-035 Diesever Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf Character Portrait: BFSH-013 Sarissa
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Minerva was surprised to hear that the commander had only called them here to see just how many wanted the position of leadership, before jokingly calling out the team's two male pilots on taking no action while the women did so. Yes, perhaps their capability for leadership would be best seen on the battlefield itself. It didn't sound like standard procedure to her, but then Dix Neuf was hardly one for convention. The bathtub still sitting in the office was proof enough of that.

The briefing proceeded to a formal introduction to their operator, Tsubaki Horizon, who gave them a quick refresher as to the nature and capabilities of the MASS. Having sat through so many similar briefings, Minerva practically knew it all by heart. Take down a MASS by destroying its core, but try to extract it if possible to help fuel Haven. It was all a matter of weighing the risks against the rewards.

When the meeting was adjourned, Minerva watched some of the pilots file out of the room before departing herself. So they would have a few hours of free time before they were needed. The veteran pilot decided to check up on how her Silhouette was doing in its hangar bay. During her years of service she was no stranger to being transferred to a new base, but those had all been stationary installations. She was quite curious as to what facilities a mobile base such as this had to offer.

Haven's hangar was already loaded with the team's Silhouettes and their support vehicles, with adequate staffing to repair and maintain them. Minerva briefly caught the sight of Raiza speaking with Genna, the latter's bright pink hair making her stand out like a beacon despite her lack of height. Deciding not to intrude upon their discussion, Minerva pressed on towards the familiar blue shape of her own Silhouette, the Sarissa...

...and right next to it happened to be the Diesever. With a sigh, she averted her gaze from the retooled and repainted machine in favour of taking a closer look at her own to see if the mechanics were giving it proper treatment.

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Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: Dix Neuf
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Tsubaki gave a slow blink when Rhys flashed her his charming grin. A faint pink shade took over her cheeks, and the operator averted her cyan eyes, then stammered, "Why...uh...t-thank you." She was unused to such behavior from a Black Fang pilot. Not even Commander Neuf, and found herself unsure on how to react. And yet... it was not an unpleasant feeling.

Dix Neuf chuckled at Avery's comment. With an unmoving smile, he replied, "I wouldn't call myself an expert, but... possibly a journeyman. Definitely above apprentice. At the very least, I know that women are like the sun. If they don't shine bright, us men would just..."

The Commander leaned back slightly, paused for emphasis, and gave a wink.

"...wilt."

As Renzam exited and walked down the corridor, he mumbled to himself, a perpetual frown on his face. "And if they shine too bright, we'd burn. Like eggs in a desert." He had nothing against women, obviously. He simply could not afford any distractions. Even if they were very tempting. And cute.

===============================================================================

Rhys was in luck. Haven's largest area, the indoor plaza, had been opened for public use. The construction workers and ladders had been rid of, the lights affixed to provide adequate illumination upon the walls and floors of old, recycled iron. Everything seemed either brown or gray, with splashes of red-orange and yellow here and there. Even though the construction in this specific area had been finished, much of the wall panels and wiring were left exposed, no doubt to expedite the process and save on resources.

The plaza seemed almost like a small city. Buildings up to four storeys tall were neatly laid around them, each serving to either house Black Fang's Eurasian refugees and/or provide certain services. Much of the buildings will remain uninhabited until Commander Neuf officially signaled the time of boarding, yet Rhys were able to guess their purposes by their prominent signs. 'Belkan's Gourmet', 'Niko's Tailoring', 'Red Light Massage'...

The cat-bearded pilot found himself on a circular area on the southern side of the plaza, where several small stalls had been set up. In the center was a bronze sculpture, depicting a tall, broad shouldered man wearing a long, flowing coat. His jaw had been chiseled to perfection, and even without pupils, one could see a certain fire burning inside his sharp and sharply sculpted eyes. The nameplate read 'Magna Regnum'. Black Fang's long-dead founder.

"Excuse me! Sir!"

A high pitched voice called.

Left, right, back. Rhys saw nobody.

"Down here!"

A tiny boy, barely reaching the older pilot's knees, held up a tray, lined with twelve cinnamon rolls. Their freshly baked, yellow-brown surface seemed to glisten with the soft, white glaze which dripped from their peak to their sides.

"Would you like a sample?" The boy asked, with a smile so giddy that seemed to form a sideways "C" on his face.

Avery, who was seeking higher quality refreshments, found herself, and Rhys nearby, around this area as well. Unfortunately for her, it seemed that her options were very limited until at least the following day. A great many restaurants were built around the plaza, offering noodles, beef bowls, even pasta. For now, however, these offers remained hollow.

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Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Tsubaki's fingers tapped away at the keyboard in the observation deck, her movements swift, automatic. Her eyes darted between screens, concentrating on whatever info she needed, then immediately moving on. The squeaking of the door alerted the operator of Raiza's arrival. Tsubaki's attention remained on the screen, obscuring her smile from Raiza's immediate attention.

"Oh, you know I don't worry about that."

For a moment, the redhead spun in her chair to face the approaching Raiza, then pointed to her glass eyes, which glowed the same cyan color as the many screens in the dark room.

"Not with these."

Tsubaki's artificial eyes. Commissioned and customized to aid her in her operator duties, and to replace her long gone organic ones.

"Granted, they make viewing the old nature documentary tapes REALLY.... unfulfilling, but they help me do well in my job," Tsubaki said as she spun in her chair again, focusing back on her work. Occasionally, the operator glanced as Raiza sat besides her and began her observation.

"Strategizing for tonight, I take it?" Tsubaki asked, her fingers still tapping away.

Her brows furrowed slightly when she remembered the stunt Raiza pulled this afternoon. And last week. And a few days before that week. "Just don't plan to do anything TOO reckless. I know you like showing off, and it's good for morale, but..."

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Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Genna Strawberry Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Avery wasn't sure if it was the lighting or something funky in the air, but she suddenly started to feel tired and sleepy as soon as she took her first step inside. The large indoor plaza felt even roomier than it already was, given that most of Haven's expected passengers haven't boarded yet. As such, it wasn't difficult to spot Rhys along the way. I wonder what he's going to get me? she wondered, finding herself smiling a little at the thought. I sure hope it's food, because I think I'm all out of luck in that department.

She propped one foot onto a circular stone bench, a thin oak tree rising from the well of dirt in its center. Giving her surroundings a cursory look, the status of the shops seemed to reconfirm her fears. Yep. Absolutely nothing's open. I don't know what I expected. Squinting, her focus began shifting away from the stores and instead to the background.

Gray wall, gray floor, gray ceiling, some brown, a little bit of red of there, gray, gray, even more gray. . .
Yeah, this wasn't acceptable. Granted, it would take a million years and a half to paint, but she'd be damned if she'd let a place she was going to be living in look like such a dreary, by-the-book husk of an interior designer's nightmare. On a whim, Avery flipped out her PDA and sent a text request to Tsubaki about this very pressing concern.

Avery Hall: somehody give me a paint roler so i can giv this dump a makover or so help me ggod

w/ uh permissuon of course

thnx


After hitting send maybe a little too soon, she scratched her head with the pad wondering if there was anything else she could've added to the message, but decided what's done is done. Ugh, I'll worry about food later, I don't even have an appetite right now. I've got to hit the showers or else this smell is going to haunt me forever. . . Or at least, that was the plan if she wasn't absolutely horrible with directions and hadn't missed the public directory a million times.

About three hundred years later, Avery managed to stumble into something that was probably a restroom; she was about to turn around and search elsewhere until she heard the telltale sound of pattering water. The sound of somebody using a shower. Oh, duh. The shower room's connected. Makes sense, last time I saw one of those was at the pool, I think. Or was it the beach?
There, she spotted someone with rather unusual hair - daresay, even more unusual than Renzam's silver spikeball. She stood there for a moment in silence, wondering if she'd seen her before as she studied the girl before her. She shook her head.

Nah, there's no way I'd forget meeting someone with such violently pink drill hair. She looked dressed for work, so she must be a crew member here. Well, she didn't like to assume, but it seemed likely at any rate.

"Hey, I love your hair!" she called with a cheery grin on her face, peeling her Black Fang jacket off and folding it up in her arms as she stepped inside the restroom. "How did you get your curls like that? Looks like hard work!" She set her jacket on the counter and removed the ribbons from her hair, letting it spill down well below her shoulders like a golden waterfall. She took a quick look at herself in the mirror, an expression that was a mixture of annoyance and disgust creeping up on her face. It didn't last, of course, but she wasn't any happier. Ugh, I look so gross right now. I hope she doesn't mind.

"Oh, and are you part of the Haven crew by any chance? If so, nice to meet you!" Avery suddenly realized that maybe that wasn't the greatest choice of words, so she quickly and awkwardly corrected herself by adding, "If not, uh, nice to meet you anyway! I'm Avery."

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Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Raiza laughed, "Right, I forgot you had those. I keep forgetting that. Possibly since they seem so real. But yes, I'm seeing the terrain and figuring where the best place to keep myself is, where I can easily respond to enemy threats. Along with noting any areas that would be problematic to the defense" soon, much like Tsubaki she rolled from one monitor to another, mumbling to herself the tactics that whizzed through her head. One of which being remaining close to Haven on the left flank, where a massive dune was, the Nightcrawler would have to go over that, opeing a less armoured bottom-side up, whoch brute force can easily tear, 'The bottom likely has the least defense, as that would be where the legs connect to the main body.... So striking there makes it much easier to physically break it down enough to exterminate them. Though I doubt they'd come from just one side....' With that, Raiza rolled to another screen, getting a view of the tents that were set up, along with possibly the most important flank, as that was where many lives were, and where it mattered the most to be absolutely perfect.

Looking at the monitor, it was open to a degree, it was flat with several dunes rising up three-hundred meters away, it seemed a good place to have artillery and vehicles, as there were no dunes to compensate movement. Though Raiza did note that there'd be need of an intercepting unit, as it played a good hand for any possible Nightcrawler, at this point Raiza sighed, feeling the iron tase in her mouth once more, Raiza had bit her inner lip a little hard, causing it to bleed a little again. Though she looked to Tsubaki,

"Though I liked those old Nature documentaries, Tsubaki. It reminds me of what the MASS has done, and what they have shaped Earth to. And while I wish I could have seen some of those animals, I know, that somewhere there are more in hiding..." Her tone had shifted, from being friendly and cheerful, to more upset, as it reminded her of the times. Though she still moved around, gathering more and more for the tactics. Though finally she rolled to a nearby table, with a simple pen and sheet of paper, drawing out the terrain and Haven. And began noting down the tactic she came up with, placing Polaris in the flats, to be an interceptor.

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Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Renzam blinked, taken aback by Minerva's words. After her harshness with Anna, and her straightforward frankness with Dix Neuf, her comments about Adzam radiated with passion, understated as it might have been. It was nothing he haven't heard before, of course. Yet somehow, coming from her, it sounded more... believable.

"Oh..," Renzam instinctively grunted as Minerva asked her question. The silver haired pilot turned away as well, focusing his attention on the refitted Diesever.

"We barely knew each other. We've both been pilots for years, but never in the same unit."

A pause. Renzam found himself unable to look away from his Silhouette. His brother's legacy...

"Every time we do meet, he always had something to critique about my performance. He always seemed more a parent than a brother to me," the Diesever's pilot added.

With a dispassionate sigh, he mumbled, "Too bad he died, I guess. He was a good pilot." Simple. Blaise. Emotionless. For many, it would sound insincere.

================================================================================

Tsubaki slowly glanced over and observed Raiza as she worked, showing off her calm and tactical mind. She wondered why Dix Neuf would not just nominate Raiza as field leader earlier. She was clearly the best fit for the job, Tsubaki thought. The operator couldn't help but stare as Raiza then voiced out her sadness, her brows furrowed and her smile deflating into a frown.

Still, if there was one thing she learnt, a little bit of levity goes a long way.

"I hope you're right. I wouldn't mind having a wolf puppy....," Tsubaki wondered aloud. "Those big googly eyes..... that soft fur... And don't forget the long ears, and, and the fluffy tail!"

The red haired operator's thoughts went places as she pondered about it longer, her face beaming with newfound excitement.

================================================================================

Hibaki Horizon's jaw slowly slid down and hung open as Rhys offered to practically buy his entire cinnamon rolls stock. Before he even officially opened the shop!

"Mister....," the boy whispered.

With a grin that took half his face, he then proclaimed out loud,"YOU'RE THE BEST!", before running off to grab the cat-bearded pilot's orders.

It took him a while, but Hibaki brought Rhys two heavy shopping bags worth of heavenly sweetness, both of which, together, seemed larger than the boy himself, causing him to waddle over as he brought them to the Paladin's pilot.

"Pleasure doing business with you! Come again!!"

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From the northern border of the settlement, one could see small clouds of dust kicking up from behind the wavy dunes. A convoy of armored Humvees and open-air jeeps led the dust trail, Haven's temporary settlement well within its path. The remote guns mounted on the armored vehicles were turned away as a sign that they weren't looking for trouble, though attacking a mobile fortress armed with fifty cannons would be suicide regardless.

Under the shade of one of the tents, a circle of officers playing cards exchanged glances with each other as a sentry reported the movement in the distance. They messily pulled their jackets on and parted from their stations, trekking up one of the higher dunes and flagging the unfamiliar vehicles down with wide hand gestures.

In front of the convoy, the passenger side of the leading Humvee opened up and a uniformed man stepped out to greet them. From the look of his wear, he didn't appear to be affiliated with any organization - just a simple desert camouflage outfit, probably handed down or borrowed from some old military equipment storage.

Briefly adjusting his glasses, he rubbed his gloved hands together as he began to speak: "Good afternoon! Black Fang, right? We've actually arrived from one of our outposts further up north, but due to some. . . unforeseen circumstances, as it were, we are now mobilizing to head south."

"South?" one of Haven's officer's repeated, scratching the back of her head. "If that's the case, you might want to take the long way around. We're expecting MASS arrivals in several hours, I suggest that you take your crew and head southwest."

With a look of mild surprise, the other man nodded. "Really? Well, many thanks for the advice. I thought I'd give some fair warning myself - the wind is really starting to pick up there, so there may be a bit of a sandstorm coming your way. I don't know if the conditions will be too dangerous, but if you've got MASS to contend with, visibility might become something of an issue, I imagine."

"Oh, that's just great," the woman sighed, shaking her head. "Alright, thanks for the heads up. We might have to board everyone earlier than expected just in case. See you around and stay safe out there."

"Likewise." With a casual salute, the man returned to his vehicle and once more the revving of engines could be heard. As they started to make their way past the settlement, the officer dropped a call to Haven's base.

"This is Officer Lane to command, we've just had contact with a non-hostile armored convoy at the northern border. Seems like they were only passing through, but word has it that we should expect heavy winds to start blowing this way. Not sure if there's going to be a sandstorm like he suggested, but I thought I'd let you know in case you'd like to make preparations."

-

Somewhere in the distance, grains of sand began to slowly roll down their dunes.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Genna Strawberry Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: BFSH-035 Diesever Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Genna took a step back and stared, a mildly startled look in her brown, round eyes. She did not audibly object when the older pilot felt up her pink curls, her mouth hanging open as she struggled to find the proper words.

In an attempt to shake off the awkwardness, the pink haired girl giggled. "Tee..heehee! Heehee!" Then, with a polite smile, she replied to her offer, "I'd have to take a rain check on that! I'm going to be really busy for a while. Heehe, these machines can't maintain themselves, you know!""

As if just suddenly remembering, Genna held one finger up and said, "Oh! That reminds me! I still have to help my team with Raiza's machine!" The girl turned around, kept an upbeat smile on her face, and sprinted out of the restroom while waving at Anna. "See you later, Anna! Excited to see your tank in action~"

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"Officer Lane, this is Command. Thank you for the heads up, I'll alert Commander Neuf and all relevant personnel!"

With a sigh, Tsubaki leaned back in her chair, her eyes darting to the myriad screens around her. "Looks like we won't have five hours in the end...," Tsubaki thought aloud within Raiza's earshot. The operator glanced to the variable pilot and continued, a serious expression in her face. "It might be best if you and your fellow pilots get ready to sortie."

Without waiting for a response, Tsubaki spun in her chair and began typing away.

================================================================================

Tsubaki's commanding voice soon traveled throughout Haven and its surroundings, aided by the many speakers on board the mobile fortress.

"Attention to all Haven personnel! We have received word of heavy winds from the north. Mechanics and auxiliaries, please retreat behind the fortress' walls! Combatants, put on your pilot suits and prepare to sortie!"

In an instant, the previously, relatively calm hangar livened up with the rush of a thousand footsteps. Construction workers in yellow hardhats finished what they could, slid down their ladders, then headed deeper into the fortress, followed by engineers, custodians, and other non-combatants.

Renzam watched the scene unfold before him, catching sight of Camille's distinctive blue hair chatting with Rhys not too far away. The silver-haired pilot turned to Minerva. "So, our first combat operation together is going to take place in a sandstorm. Should be fun." His tone was deadpan, his expression unenthusiastic, or at least sedated.

Around the hangar, Renzam saw the pilots of more conventional fighter jets and crews of simple tanks strap into their skintight, yet padded pilot suits. Some could be seen complaining.

"Why do we have to wear this shit in the desert?!"

"Are you stupid? These suits shield us from the MASS' contamination! The black liquid they spew will rot your insides!"

"Isn't that why we're riding inside tanks and silhouettes in the first place?"

"Well, of course! But what if our fancy vehicles get busted? We can't survive out there without a suit for more than two hours, you know! The MASS really messed up our atmosphere...."


Renzam glanced to Minerva one more time, then nodded, encouraging her, "Good luck." before departing to change into his suit.

================================================================================

Lit by the blazing sun, the Eurasian refugees began their docking of Haven. Their final refuge, their last hope. Twenty thousand men, women, and children marched through eight entry points, two each on Haven's four sides, supervised by Black Fang soldiers both on foot and inside tanks.

With a megaphone in hand, a Black Fang soldier, clad in standard issue black pilot suits, barked through a loudspeaker, "Come on people! Let's march in an orderly fashion! There's room for everyone, no need to push!"

Amongst the crowd, a family of three huddled together. A middle-aged father with a toothbrush mustache, his pregnant wife, and their tiny daughter, clutching a teddy bear. The parents guided their daughter, holding her shoulders protectively with one arm each.

"Don't be scared, darling. Everything's going to be alright, now...," the mother encouraged her youngling with a smile.

"Black Fang will keep us safe," the father added, turning his attention to the organization's logo, painted proudly upon the mobile fortress' starboard. An ivory fang, upon a grey and blue shield, with pitch black blood dripping from its tip. The blood of humanity's sworn enemies, the MASS.

================================================================================

With a hiss and a click, Renzam sat himself upon the Diesever's cockpit. A narrow, boxy chamber, with large screens at his front and by his sides. The silver-haired pilot took a deep breath, sniffing the fresh coat of purple paint on the cold metal. his pilot suit, a magenta version of the standard Black Fang suits had been polished to match the clean colors of his cockpit.

In his hands was a magenta helmet to go with his suit. A headgear fashioned from the remains of Adzam Aubrey's own. The young man closed his eyes, and pressed his forehead against said helmet. When the Diesever was pulverized, the salvage crew deemed its cockpit far beyond restoration. This helmet, somehow, miraculously survived, remaining perfectly still, albeit heavily damaged, on his brother's mangled and bloody corpse.

"Hoy. Brother."

A long sigh. Renzam wondered why he said that. Out loud, at that. He was never religious. He did not believe in ghosts, or the afterlife, or whatever.

"...Nevermind."

Renzam stood straight, slid the helmet into his head, and twisted the Diesever's ignition. A low hum accompanied various green lights flickering to life around the cockpit, displaying tons of technical information on the black screens around him. Renzam quickly glanced around to scan it all. Silhouette parts integrity, ammunition stock, fuel supplies. The works.

His black gloved hands wrapped around one of the machine's levers. With the press of a button, the spiky-haired pilot alerted command. [magenta]"This is Caestus, on the Diesever. All systems go. Launching![/magenta]

A jagged line formed upon his silhouette's black visor. The hum emanating from its engines intensified. The machine's servos whirred and clicked, as it raised a foot, then stepped forward. A 15-meter titan of purple and lavender steel, with a swiveling bazooka mounted on its back left shoulder. Every step it took sent vibrations across the hangar, its movements rigid, heavy, precise.

The hangar gate at the bow slowly opened, bringing the bright sun into the dark hangar. The Diesever's boxy feet departed the cold steel floors and arrived upon the hot, coarse sand, standing tall and proud as one of Haven's prime vanguards.

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: BFSV-16 Polaris Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon
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Raiza stopped herself with a laugh, thinking about Tsubaki having a wolf, she turned looking at her with a tone to match the smile, "You can barely handle a gun in your presence, let alone an animal that weighs around forty-five kilograms. It probably would weigh more than you, Tsubaki." as the pen moved once more, it stopped, as she looked up, a screen was lit, showing the loose sand moving gently from presumably a breeze. While the sand moving was of no importance she looked back at Tsubaki, her voice being much, much more concerned,

"Tsubaki....? What have the wind speeds looked like throughout day...?" while she hadn't an idea what may come during the mission, Raiza had forgotten one thing, they're in a desert.... Sandstorms. They were almost impossible to deal with, as sand could get into almost anything that wasn't more or less airtight. Though she kept her strategy working, as she kept her eyes on several monitors, wind speed had played a factor in her tactic. As it would then rely on light signals.... That is, if everyone else knew of them...

Hours passed without much worth noting....

As Raiza had stopped her planning after a while, and soon had gone for a meal. Having been the type to eat light, she needed a healthy portion of food. Though it was harder in this time than any for her.... Picky (If one can call it that).... Eating habits. Little to the knowledge of most of the other enlisted members, Raiza favoured to not eat most meats. It wasn't too bad in a sense, as often she found a way to minimize the consumption of meats, as she'd get sick otherwise, and that was not a good thing.

Yet her search had been cut off by the familiar voice of Tsubaki once more, calling for a General Quarters, with a sigh the pilot turned on her heels before running towards the Hangar. A few minutes passed as the woman moved herself around the large rolling city, as she avoided the civilians that were entering. Every here and there, she slowed her pace to get around people without running into them. The rush had set in as she began moving once more, and this time, in a full sprint. It took a little time for Raiza's legs to carry her to Polaris, whom now had the full equipment that would scare any aircraft away, but once she was there, it took her two steps to climb into the cockpit, as she glanced to her allies she spoke into the radio, with a light laugh and tone, she spoke as the canopy lowered,

"You all best make it back, supper's on me." she laughed once more to herself, it was an attempt to motivate people and even cheer some up. As the systems booted up, she lit up her comm once more, "This is Black Rose, Please clear the runway." With a slight pause, her Comm lit up again, "Polaris... Launch!". And with that, she launched out once more, showing off her skill once more, this time, with one of the more unnerving move, a Tailslide. With her aircraft flying straight up, she felt the craft losing power as it got higher in altitude, before it stalled. With a calm breath Raiza felt Polaris slowly slipping back and down, here was where she would have to fight her own Silhouette. As she kept the nose up, she watched her altitude as she began to roll around, this time with the nose down, and once again, flew normally. While most thought she was showing off, Raiza knew what she was doing, she pushed Polaris as hard as it could, to ensure the controls are in perfect order.

Thus began another sortie for the Black Rose, with the gleam of the sun reflecting off the crimson skull....

Setting

Characters Present

Character Portrait: Raiza Amsel Character Portrait: Rhys Hudson Character Portrait: Renzam Aubrey Character Portrait: Anna Mirnova Character Portrait: Avery Hall Character Portrait: Minerva Petra Character Portrait: Camille Arca Character Portrait: Tsubaki Horizon Character Portrait: VFM-06A Corvidae
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"Hey, thanks!" Camille thanked the bun Rhys handed over to her. As she had been quite a fast eater, she was able to devour the meal in a few seconds, watching the heavy winds pick up. For a while, it didn't seem like anything would happen--until Tsubaki's voice rang out from the intercom.

"Attention to all Haven personnel! We have received word of heavy winds from the north. Mechanics and auxiliaries, please retreat behind the fortress' walls! Combatants, put on your pilot suits and prepare to sortie!"

"One step ahead of you ma'am!" Camille called out to no one in particular as she hopped into the cockpit of her bird, working on the mechanisms to bring it to life. Fortunately, although it was considered an older machine, it's cockpit interface was far more advanced than most 21st century machines. It doesn't take a lot of skill to learn how to fly the thing. What would require skill is--

"A possible encounter with unpredictable wind speeds and low visibility terrain and limited ammunition and attack options...This isn't really a battle geared towards us..." Camille thought as the plasma engines revved up. "Buit if we can do our job well in this kind of environment, that might enable us to score some brownie points with the top brass. Might as well do it."

"Crow-04--all set to go in the VFM! Ready to launch anytime!" Camille responded, her hands ready on the throttle.